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Literary Circles: Artist, author, word and image in Britain 1800-1920

Literary Circles explores the complex relationships that developed between art and literature, and between artists and writers, in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. From the narrative painting of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, through the revival of wood-engraved illustration in Victorian periodicals and the typographical innovations of the Book Beautiful, to the Shakespearean fairylands of Richard Dadd and the birth of the cartoon in the pages of Punch, text and image intersected, reinforcing one another, but also competing for pre-eminence.

Focusing on illustration, fantasy and caricature, this exhibition includes paintings, drawings and literary manuscripts by John Everett Millais, Elizabeth Siddal, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Blake, Samuel Palmer, George du Maurier and Max Beerbohm. It highlights the growth of literary journals and serialised novels, which brought illustrated narratives to a wider readership, and contrasts it with the development of the private press movement, stimulated by the book designs of William Morris, and exemplified in the works of Walter Crane, Charles Ricketts and Kate Greenaway.

Drawn from the Fitzwilliam’s exceptionally rich holdings, the exhibition also illuminates the network of interests that linked, with each other and with the Museum, authors and artists such as John Keats, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Robert Browning, Algernon Swinburne, Burne-Jones, Thomas Hardy, Augustus John and Siegfried Sassoon. In this way, it uncovers the bonds of affection and creative collaboration that were central to the Museum’s evolution and to the enrichment of its collection.

Chasing Happiness: Maeterlinck, The Blue Bird and England

To complement Literary Circles, the exhibition Chasing Happiness: Maeterlinck, The Blue Bird and England extends the dialogue between text and image into theatre through the display of captivating stage sets for Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird, one of the most popular and celebrated theatrical productions of the Edwardian era.

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Literary Circles: ’Where’s the Joke?’ special festive caption competition


To celebrate the final weeks of the exhibition Literary Circles: Artist, author, word and image the Fitzwilliam Museum is inviting visitors to assess just how much our collective sense of humour has changed from Victorian times. The special festive competition asks entrants to suggest their own, alternative caption for George du Maurier’s 1876 drawing De gustibus non disputandum (’There’s No Accounting for Taste’) and have their wit judged by judge Griff Rhys Jones.

The exhibition in the Mellon Gallery (13), which closes 30 December, examines the fascinating relationship between authors and artists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Du Maurier’s drawing forms part of the ’Where’s the Joke?’ section of Literary Circles, which explores the fashion for caricature and pictorial parody in the late Victorian age and beyond.

The original caption of ’There’s No Accounting for Taste’ tells the story of a squabbling, petty couple through their lengthy dialogue, but for many the humour belongs to another era and becomes lost in time. With this in mind, visitors of all ages are invited to engage with the exhibition’s themes of text and image, and produce their own captions.

Further information and entry forms are available in the exhibition in the Mellon Gallery. Entries should either be handed in at the desks at either entrance upon leaving the museum, or sent to the Marketing and Press Office.

The entries will be judged by Griff Rhys Jones, with prizes awarded to the best entries. The closing date is 8 January 2007.

Literary Circles: Artist, author, word and image in Britain 1800-1920 exhibition is on:

Tue 17 October 2006 to Sat 30 December 2006
Mellon Gallery (Gallery 13)
Free Admission